Table for 9?
by Josh Spence

Last year it was Jamie Paige.  After batting a strong .307 as a junior, Jamie emerged as the lead off hitter in his senior season, and quickly became a force to be reckoned with.  With a .363 batting average, and a team leading 97 hits, 67 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases, Jamie was the definition of a table setter.  With the loss of Paige, Ryan Jones, and the Lawhorn brothers, a lot of people wondered how the Pirates would be able to score runs this season.  

Early this year another guy has emerged for Randy Mazey’s East Carolina Pirates.  Formerly coveted for his incredible fielding abilities at shortstop, Billy Richardson has quickly emerged as a Paige-like lead off man for the Pirates.  After batting a modest .234 as the 9th hitter in the pirates order a year ago, Billy worked hard in the off-season on his hitting.  As a surprise to many, Richardson was named the lead off hitter for the Pirates in the 2005 campaign.  To say the least, it has been a pleasant surprise.  Richardson is batting .429 on the year leading all Pirates in at bats (68), hits (30), runs scored (25), and stolen bases (5).

As if Billy’s .429 average and team leading stats weren’t enough, he cemented his standing as the table setter on Sunday, when going 4 for 6, and hitting for the cycle.  Billy became the first Pirate to do so since John Williamson in 1999.  Even more impressive was the way he did it.  Billy led off the game offensively for the Pirates with his third Home Run of the season, a feat he has accomplished now three times this year.  Richardson then doubled in the 5th, and singled in the 7th.  Billy came up for the final time in the top of the 9th inning with the game well in hand, Pirates winning 12-0, and the Pirate shortstop needing only a triple to hit for the cycle.  With 2 runners on, Richardson laced one into left center over the centerfielders head and quickly made it clear he had no intentions of stopping at 2nd.

As a spectator, it was one of the most incredible moments I have seen watching any sport.  But the effort was out-done just moments later.  You would think that a guy who just completed his cycle in the ninth inning of a 14-0 blowout, would be done for the day.  Instead, Richardson goes out as the Pirates pitcher and gets the final 3 outs of the ball game, allowing no runs to compete the shutout.

With a depleted bull-pen, it’s unsure how much more time Billy will see at the mound.  I can tell you this, the Pirates will continue to look to Billy to come up with big hits.  East Carolina has one of the biggest weeks of the season coming up.  The Pirates start with a home game against High Point on Wednesday, before facing former CAA rival UNC-W on the road Wednesday night.  The Pirates then fly to New Orleans on Thursday for a much anticipated series against one of the top teams in the land this weekend, the Tulane Green Wave.

Josh Spence